Would you like to subscribe to our newsletters?

Modern interpretation of family sees B.C. strata lose legal case

Image Credit: PEXELS

A B.C. condo owner has won a legal challenge after a tribunal ruled the four roommates the owner rented to could be classed as a "family" and therefore didn't break any strata rules about only renting to a single family.

According to a Dec. 23 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, in February 2021 Liguan Gan and Tianpo Ye rented out their Burnaby condo to "four young professionals who are friends."

Not long after the four roommates moved in did the strata contact the condo owners advising the building's bylaws didn't allow them to rent their apartment to anyone other than a single family.

Pointing to a bylaw that says "no owner, tenant, or occupant shall use a (condo) for any purpose other than for occupancy by a single family," the strata started dishing out fines at $200 a week.

The strata then took the condo owners to the Civil Resolution Tribunal in an effort to evict the roommates.

However, the Tribunal picked apart the wording of the occupancy bylaw.

The Tribunal pointed out that the occupancy bylaw stated that no owner, tenant, or occupant "shall use" a (condo) for any purpose other than for occupancy by a single-family.

"Based on a plain reading, I find the (condo owners) are not in breach of the bylaw because they are not 'using' the strata lots. Rather, it is (the roommates) who are using the strata lots," the Tribunal ruled. "The wording of the bylaw only restricts the (condo owners’) use of the strata lots. It does not say the (condo owners) may not permit the strata to be used by anyone other than a single family."

The Tribunal said that as the strata had only launched its case against the condo owners it could not rule against the tenants.

"I find it would be procedurally unfair for me to consider the strata’s claim against the tenants given the tenants have not had the opportunity to respond to the strata’s allegations," the decision says.

READ MORE: Vernon couple lose legal fight with strata over blocked lake view

The strata also argued that renting the condo to roommates broke the rules as the bylaw clearly stated apartments could only be let to a single family.

However, the Tribunal said the strata bylaws didn't define "family" definitively.

The Tribunal then looks at the Merriam Webster dictionary for the correct definition of "family."

"In modern use, family may refer to one of a number of different groups of people… who may or may not share ancestry," the decision quotes the dictionary definition. "In many legal contexts family denotes 'individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption,' but in others the definition may be somewhat broader, encompassing groups of individuals not related by these things."

The Tribunal then goes with the broader interpretation.

"Following the modern use of the word 'family' noted above, I find that people do not need to be related by blood, marriage, or adoption, as the strata appears to suggest, in order to be considered a family," the decision says.

With that, the strata lost its case, leaving the roommates to continue living together, and the condo owners from avoiding thousands of dollars in fines.

READ MORE: Why a pandemic isn't a good enough reason for B.C. strata councils to make quick changes

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.